Dennis Segers ‘75 shared his story with a class of the College of Liberal Arts’ Freshmen Innovation Group (FIG)—a high-impact academic program dedicated to students who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university.
by Heather Rodriguez ’04
“A diploma is only the beginning of a lifetime of learning.”
These are the words Dennis Segers ‘75 imparted on a class of the College of Liberal Arts’ Freshmen Innovation Group (FIG)—a high-impact academic program dedicated to students who are the first in their families to attend a four-year college or university. Like Liberal Arts, Segers believes education extends beyond the classroom, and this fall, he visited from Silicon Valley to share his experiences as a fellow first-generation student.
“We face different challenges than other students do. Some of us have a support system that is weaker–and in some cases, lacking altogether,” Segers said.
Segers is originally from Yoakum, a small town roughly two hours south of College Station. He had long held a desire to understand how things worked, so he decided to study mechanical engineering Texas A&M. It was the only college he applied to.
“But then, on the first day of class, came the big shock. I had graduated near the top of my high school class, but suddenly, I was struggling,” Segers said. “I was learning principles that were new to me, but fellow classmates had heard before. I realized how disadvantaged I was.”
Discouraged, Segers switched majors several times before, in his sophomore year, dropping out of school completely. He moved to Houston, married his high school sweetheart, and became an assistant retail manager. A year later, a visit from an old classmate changed everything.
“He challenged me to return to school,” Segers said. “And the difference between my first and second go at school is night and day.”
With the support of his wife Debbie, who worked as a secretary for the College of Agriculture while he earned his degree, Segers found his passion in electrical engineering, even earning a position at the new Solid Space Physics Lab. This led to the start of his successful 35-year career in the semiconductor industry. And although he graduated from engineering, he has a deep appreciation for the College of Liberal Arts.
“The liberal arts are an important element in shaping the future of technology,” he said. “It’s no longer a question of what technology can do, but what technology should do. And we need the humanities to answer that question.”
Segers hopes his story helped encourage the FIG students who may face similar challenges.
“Attending A&M represents the opportunity of a lifetime and helps students create a better life for themselves, but you have to persevere in the face of adversity. I allowed discouragement to potentially derail my future, but thanks to my wife, I was able to get through that,” Segers said. “I hope other students can do the same.”